Dec 052014


Your Guide to the Texas Hill Country Wine Experience

The Texas Hill Country Wineries have roots as old as any around. Texas grapes grow in soils made from ancient calcareous sea deposits, similar to many of the grape-growing regions of Europe. Texas wine culture arrived in the 1600s with Spanish missionaries who settled and planted vineyards in El Paso del Norte. The 1800s brought German and Italian immigrant farmers to Texas; they considered wine a staple of everyday life.

In what is now America’s No. 5 wine-producing state, the Texas Hill Country was named by Wine Enthusiast magazine to its 2014 list of best international wine destinations. It may surprise some, but not the wine aficionados who have visited the Texas Hill Country’s 50 or more wineries, that wine-and-culinary tourism is currently the Texas Hill Country’s fastest growing sector.

This book (click here) is your guide to the Texas Hill Country winery experience. It is time to sip and savor Texas for yourself.

I share my time between Houston and the Texas Hill Country. I’m  a technical writer, researcher, wine blogger, and book author with work spanning three decades. My best-selling book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine (Texas Tech University Press, February 2012), provided me insights and stories from the pioneers of Texas wine.

In the book Texas Hill Country Wineries (Arcadia Publications, the largest publisher of local history,  January 2015), I tell the story of the Texas hill country wine experience in words and over 170 images, some going back into the late 1800s. This story is not only what the Texas hill country wineries are now, but also what came before from all around the state and from far away Europe to start wine culture in Texas.

Reserve your copy of the Texas Hill Country Wineries book at a pre-release discounted price. For more information and ordering, click here.

For your holiday gifts, give your wine-loving friends, family members  and business associates a copy of The Wineslinger Chronicles, click here. All books are discounted for the holiday season, autographed and personalized by me as you request.

Many thanks for your support and following my VintageTexas blog.

Russ Kane – Doc Russ Texas Wineslinger

 Posted by at 12:41 pm
Dec 032014


Texas Hill Country Wineries  – December 2014 Newsletter

Reprinted by permission of Texas Hill Country Wineries (click here).

Holiday Wine Kick-0ff Tasting at Flat Creek Estate

Join us THIS Friday! Friday, December 5, 6-8pm – Hill Country tasting with Flat Creek Estate, Stone House Vineyard, Fall Creek Vineyard, Westcave Cellars and Perissos Vineyard. Tickets are only $25! Click here.

— — — — —

Holiday Wine Trail

Less than 60 Tickets Available! The most coveted wine trail of the year is almost SOLD OUT! Get your tickets now for the 2014 Holiday Wine Trail, December 5-21. Click here.

— — — — —

Inwood Estates offers Shuttle Service

Free shuttle service provided by Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro for Fredericksburg. Interested parties can call the winery for more information 830-997-2304. Reservations or appointments are recommended for all guests but advance notice is required for larger groups of 6 or more.

— — — — —

** Don’t Drink & Drive **

Use a designated driver or one of our great, local tour and transportation partners. For more info on Limos & Tours, click here.

— — — — —

Winemaker Profile – – Angela Moench, Stone House Vineyard

by Texas Wine Lover

Angela Moench is the co-owner and winemaker at Stone House Vineyard in Spicewood, Texas. At the winery is a vineyard with Norton grapes. Angela Moench is from the Barossa Valley of Australia and the wines at Stone House Vineyard showcase Australian wines in addition to Texas wines. We asked Angela Moench about her background and philosophy of winemaking.

Q: If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?

A: I’d probably have a larger garden as I enjoy the outdoor life so much, read more books, and definitely do something creative. I used to think I’d like to have a restaurant but I’ve certainly outgrown that idea.

Read the full interview with Angela at Texas Wine Lover (click here).

— — — — —

Wine Cocktails of the Month – Drinks with The Drakes

I Don’t Bake-Tini

– 1 oz William Chris Dessert Roussanne – 1 oz Praline Original Pecan Liqueur – 1/2 oz Pinnacle Whipped Cream Vodka – 1 oz Fat Free Whipping Cream * – Smuckers Sugar Free Caramel Sundae – Syrup* – William Chris Cocoa Almonds – Nutmeg – Martini Shaker – Ice

*I used Fat Free cream & Sugar Free options to cut calories, and it’s what I had on hand. It was delicious…but use what you like!

Pour Roussanne, Praline Liqueur, Whipped Vodka and Cream over ice in a chilled Martini shaker. Shaken or stirred is up to you…I prefer swirled! Carefully coat the rim of your Martini glass in Caramel, then into the Crushed Nuts. Pour cocktail into glass and top with fresh grated Nutmeg.

Hye Society Holiday Nog

– 1 part William Chris Dessert Roussanne – 1 part Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice – Eggnog – Splash 7-Up – Smuckers Fat Free Caramel Sundae Syrup – William Chris Cocoa Almonds – Cinnamon – Nutmeg – Ice (optional)

Carefully coat the rim of your Martini glass in Caramel, then into the Crushed Nuts. Add a small amount of ice as to not water it down. Pour in Roussanne and Eggnog. Splash with 7-Up and top with Cinnamon and Fresh Nutmeg!

Twice as nice for the Holidays, two drinks for the price of one! Our dear friends at William Chris asked us to mix up a cocktail for the holidays. I made one you can enjoy in their tasting room, and one you can buy a bottle to make at home. Time and I wish you all a Happy and Safe Holiday Season…Don’t Drake and Drive! Seasons Greetings ~ The Drakes

— — — — —


Dry Comal Creek Vineyard, Event Coordinator – This full-time position will work with Managemet & Customers to promote, sell & book, coordinate & execute all events at the winery (winery sponsored & 3rd party). This full-time position will be responsible for all pre-planning activities, scheduling & execution. This position will also have input into customer engagement & outreach program planning. For more info & to submit resume, contact

Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro, Part-time Bistro & Tasting Room – Now seeking part-time Saturday help in the Bistro & Tasting Room. Interested candidates should contact Vinny at or 830-997-2304.

Messina Hof Hill Country, Assistant Tasting Room Manager & Tasting Room Associates – For more information & to apply, Click here.

Texas Wine Trail Member Wineries

4.0 Cellars, Alamosa Wine Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Bell Springs Winery, Bending Branch Winery, Chisholm Trail Winery, Compass Rose Cellars, Driftwood Estate Winery, Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Fall Creek Vineyards, Fiesta Winery, Fiesta Winery Fredericksburg, Flat Creek Estate, Flat Creek Enoteca Marble Falls, Fredericksburg Winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, Hye Meadow Winery, Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro, Kerrville Hills Winery, Lewis Wines, McReynolds Winery, Messina Hof Hill Country, Pedernales Cellars, Perissos Vineyards & Winery, Pillar Bluff Vineyards, Pontotoc Vineyard, Rancho Ponte Vineyard, Santa Maria Cellars, Singing Water Vineyards, Sister Creek Vineyards, Solaro Estate, Spicewood Vineyards, Stone House Vineyard, Texas Hills Vineyard, Texas Legato Winery, Torre di Pietra Vineyards, Wedding Oak Winery, Westcave Cellars Winery, William Chris Vineyards, Wimberley Valley Winery, Woodrose Winery.

Click here for more info.

Wine Awards & Recognition

Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Top Texas Wine – Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red, Texas 2012

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo International Wine Competition, Best Herd of Texas Winery – Messina Hof Winery; Reserve Champion White Wine – Hye Meadow Winery, 2013 Gewurztraminer; Becker Vineyards – 8 medals, Brennan Vineyards (4.0 Cellars)- 4 medals, Driftwood Estate- 6 medals, Duchman Family Winery- 6 medals, Fall Creek Vineyard- 5 medals, Fiesta Winery- 2 medals, Flat Creek Estate- 3 medals, Hye Meadow Winery- 14 medals, Kerrville Hills Winery- 7 medals, Messina Hof Hill Country- 27 medals, Pedernales Cellars- 2 medals, Perissos Vineyard- 6 medals, Rancho Ponte Vineyard- 2 medals, Singing Water Vineyards- 4 medals, Spicewood Vineyard- 4 medals, Stone House Vineyard- 1 medal, Texas Hills Vineyard- 6 medals, Texas Legato- 2 medals, Wedding Oak Winery- 6 medals, Westcave Cellars Winery- 3 medals, William Chris Vineyards- 5 medals

Texas Monthly Top 5 Texas Tempranillos – Alamosa Wine Cellars, El Guapo Tempranillo 2011; Spicewood Vineyards Estate Tempranillo 2012; Pedernales Cellars Reserve Tempranillo 2012 & Texas Tempranillo 2012

Spicewood Vineyard – New York World Wine & Spirits Comp – Gold- 2013 TX High Plains Roussanne, Silver- 2012 High Plains Tempranillo, Bronze- 2012 Estate Tempranillo

December Winery Events

5th – 21st – Holiday Wine Trail at all 42 wineries

2nd – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

3rd – Wine Profiling Workshop: Understanding Champagne & Sparkling Wine & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

4th – Ladies Night Out at Texas Hills Vineyard – Rustic Wine Diner & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

5th – Holiday Wine Kick-off Tasting – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – First Friday! at Stone House Vineyard – Texas Hills Vineyard at Fredericksburg Christmas Parade – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Holiday Painting & Wine Party at Messina Hof Hill Country

6th – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Saturday Food Vendor, Live Music & VIP “Wine Library” Cellar & Barrel Tasting at Becker Vineyards – Live Music by Ryan Morris at Singing Water Vineyards – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – Live Music Saturday at Pedernales Cellars – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – Book Signing by Chef Ross Burtwell at Texas Hills Vineyard – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Smokin’ Rose of Texas BBQ & Live Music by Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Vineyards – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

7th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Wine & Chocolate Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country – Live Music by Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Vineyards – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars – Wine Profiling Workshop: Misconceptions of Sweet & Dessert Wine at Flat Creek Estate

9th, 10th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

11th – Rustic Wine Dinner & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

12th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery &Bistro

13th – Crepes by Crepe Nation & Live Music by Lonnie Lett at Grape Creek Vineyards – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Winery U! Cabernet – The King of Reds at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – Terry Thompson-Anderson Book Signing at Texas Hills Vineyard – VIP “Wine Library” Cellars & Barrel Tasting, Live Music & Food Vendor at Becker Vineyards – Live Music Saturday at Pedernales Cellars – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – 2nd Saturday Concert featuring Shan & Annie at Singing Water Vineyards – Live Music featuring Brad Blackburn at Kerrville Hills Winery – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Holiday Dinner! at Stone House Vineyard – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG

14th – Live Music by Lonnie Lett at Grape Creek Vineyard – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Dave Lewis from Spicewood Food Company at Texas Hills Vineyard – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars Winery

16th – Fights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

17th – Wine Profiling Workshop: Misconceptions of Sweet & Dessert Wine & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

18th – Rustic Wine Dinner & Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

19th – Fights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Holiday Wine Couture at Solaro Estate – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro

20th – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Saturday Food Vendor, Live Music & VIP “Wine Library” Cellar & Barrel Tasting at Becker Vineyards – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Live Music featuring Acoustic Jungle at Kerrville Hills Winery – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

21st – Live Music by Derek Spence at Grape Creek Vineyards – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Wine & Pie Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars Winery

23rd, 24th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

25th – Merry Christmas!

26th – Baby Back Rib Night with Live Music at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

27th – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca – Live Music at Fiesta Winery FBG 290 – Private Reserve Tasting & Live Music at William Chris Vineyards – VIP “Wine Library” Cellar & Barrel Tasting, Live Music & Food Vendor at Becker Vineyards – Live Music Under the Pavilion at Torre di Pietra – Live Music at Bell Springs Winery – Baby Back Ribs & Guitarist Bobby Beal at Inwood Estates Winery & Bistro – Pontotoc Vineyard Wein Halle in FBG

28th – Sunday Music at Westcave Cellars – Live Music by Jeff Wood at Grape Creek Vineyards – Wine & Cheese Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country – Sunday Music at Becker Vineyards – Happy Sunday! at Kerrville Hills Winery – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

30th, 31st – Flights & Bites at Flat Creek Enoteca

Happy New Year!

For more information on these events visit Winery Events (click here).

— — — — —

Words to Sip By….

“The Texas Hill Country offers the complete wine country experience” including the genuine look and feel of what serious wine travelers have come to expect: quality wine yet something more…a beautiful setting that conveys ambiance and the region’s “sense of place”.

-Russ Kane, Vintage Texas






Stay Connected:





 Posted by at 12:58 pm
Dec 012014

Starting in 1976, the Aulers planted an estate vineyard (shown here in 1983) on the shore of Lake Buchanan at their Fall Creek property in Tow north of Fredericksburg. This location provided beneficial cooling breezes, but also bought Pierce’s Disease that for many years challenged Fall Creek Vineyards and other hill country vineyards trying to grow European vinifera grapes. (Texas Hill Country Wineries – Courtesy of Ben Smusz.)

New Book from Doc Russ Texas WineSlinger on the Texas Hill Country Wineries

Upon reviewing my previous best-selling book, The WineSlinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, international wine luminary Oz Clarke rattled off the following blurb:

“Doc Russ is the kind of guy who can mix blues, barbecue and Barbera in a truly Texan way, and as he writes I can smell the mesquite smoke, hear the wailing guitar and chew the High Plains ripe red fruit. Right on Russ!”

The WineSlinger Chronicles (published by Texas Tech Press) is a literary treatment with stories the shed light on the heart and soul of the statewide Texas wine industry and focuses on its key people, their key contributions and personal stories. The personalized and autographed book makes a great gift for friends, family and associates that love good stories of Texas pioneering grit, gumption and perseverance. For your holiday discount on your purchase of The Wineslinger Chronicles, click here.

As you may know, I’ve not been sitting around letting the blowing west Texas red dirt gather in my boots. I’ve been working on a new book titled, Texas Hill Country Wineries, and it will be released by Arcadia Publications next month (in January 2015).


Photo circa early-1900s: Members of the Lorenz family and friends standing by cultivated grapevines on their property near Fredericksburg. It is harvest time.with everyone holding ripe bunches of grapes. (Texas Hill Country Wineries – Courtesy of Gillespie County Historical Society, Fredericksburg, Texas.)

This new book is a pictorial treatment of the Texas wine experience going back to its genesis in the 1600s in the Mexican town of El Paso del Norte. It follows the evolution of the immigrant farmer/winemaker experience that survived national Prohibition. The book culminates with today’s emergence of the central Texas hill country that was recently recognized by the Wine Enthusiast on their 2014 list of International Must-See Wine Destinations. This book contains approximately 100 pages and over 170 mostly color images carefully selected to tell the evolving story of the Texas Hill Country Wineries.

For more information on my Texas Hill Country Wineries book and your pre-release discount purchase option for an autographed and personalized copy of this book, click here.


Grape Creek Vineyards is a destination winery, an oasis sheltered under tall oak trees with the appropriate moniker “Tuscany in Texas” coming from its romantic Italian villa architecture. Taste wine in the tasting room, ease yourself down in the shade under the oaks. Texas Hill Country Wineries.

— — — — —

Award winning author Russell Kane, shares his time between Houston and the Texas hill country. He is a technical writer with over 250 publications, researcher, wine writer/blogger and wine aficionado whose international wine travels and work spans three decades.

 Posted by at 4:02 pm
Nov 232014

Label Art for Kerrville Hills Muscrat Love Wine

Need Some Muscrat Love?  It’s at Kerrville Hills Winery

I like this Kerrville Hills Muscrat Love wine for several reasons. The first reason is because at the first public wine tasting that I think that ever did (in Old Town Spring, TX, in the mid-to-late 1990s) I included a sweet and slightly sparkling Muscat Canelli wine from Sister Creek Vineyards in my presentation. When I got to that wine, I dutifully announced the name of the wine as “Muscat Canelli”. Nearly immediately, a loud  voice with a down home Texas twang came from the back of the room. He boomed, “Did y’all say ‘Muscrat’ Canelli? What kind of grape is that?” Now, I can actually say, “yes, this is Muscrat wine”…. almost.

The second reason I like this wine is because it is made well and made with Orange Muscat from the Texas High Plains. The grapes came from Jet and Gay Lynn Wilmeth’s Diamante Doble Vineyards near Tokio, TX (click here). The wine is luscious and delightfully playful with citrus and stone fruit notes and slightly sweet on the palate. It finishes light and crisp leaving thoughts in my mind of a breezy night on a tropical island. It will go wonderfully with spicy Mexican or Pan Asian cuisine.

Thirdly, the label art is deliciously playful, too. It is almost real enough to touch. The original floral was created by Doreen Shann in Hunt, TX.

Still another reason I like this wine, it has only 10.9% alcohol and it fulfills my quest for wines with low alcohol. The world has enough 15% alcohol Pinot Noir and dessert wines with up to 20% alcohol, or more.


Wayne Milberger – Owner & Winemaker, Kerrville Hills Winery

The last but not least reason that I like this wine is that Wayne Milberger owner and winemaker at Kerrville Hills Winery and his wife Carol are good people. When my photographer and I stopped by early on a Sunday morning to take photos for my new book on the Texas Hill Country Wineries, Wayne and Carol were friendly and gracious hosts and generous with their time.

Wayne is a bit of a handy man/engineer who tries to re-purpose just about everything he comes in contact with. That is how he got his winery’s refrigeration system and, in fact, that is how the whole winery building came about with a chimney right in the middle of the tasting room, as well. Ask Wayne how that happened.


Tasting Room at Kerrville Hills Winery

Stop by and experience Wayne’s handy work both in the winery and in his wines. His winery is not on the main hill country drag of Route 290, but it’s well worth a little extra time getting there:

Hours: Thurs – Monday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm; 3600 Fredericksburg Road (Route 16), Kerrville, TX 78028; 830-895-4233;

P.S. If you are coming down Route 16 from Fredericksburg to Kerrville, take a look for a bit of Texas wine history. As you approach the “hairpin” in the road (obvious on a map or on your GPS) that the locals call “Deadman’s Curve”, the white wooden building (now being re-purposed as a church school) on the right side of the road is the last vestige of the old Pedernales Vineyards that met an untimely demise and a mystery. Pedernales Vineyard should not to be confused with Pedernales Cellars on modern day fame. Click here to learn more about the mystery of Pedernales Vineyards. It will be worth it.

 Posted by at 11:49 am
Nov 222014

Label on Carton of Florida Orange Juice

Is Texas Wine Like Orange Juice?

A friend of mine related the following story to me with the caveat that many wineries were likely tired of hearing people like Andrew Chalk (click here) and I (click here) rant about sourcing of grapes used in Texas wines and how wine labeling should accurately reflect the source of the grapes. Who cares any way?

The Anonymous Friend said, “I’ll pass on one story that was told to me by a winery… ‘Take Minute Maid. They have to have orange juice on the shelves [in stores]. What if Florida where they get their oranges from gets a freeze that year and there’s no crop. It happens. Do they just say we’re not going to make orange juice until we can get Florida oranges? No, they look anywhere in the world (outside the country) to get oranges so they can still provide a product. Do consumers care then that the orange juice is not made from Florida oranges or just that Minute Maid made a really good orange juice?'”

If I follow this analogy and apply it to Texas wine (like I believe was the intention of the story), then Texas wine SHOULD BE just like orange juice, right? It doesn’t really matter if Texas wine is made with grapes that come from Texas or Lodi or Washington State or anywhere else. But, should the label on the wine (or orange juice) accurately reflect the source of the fruit?


Label on Carton of USA “American” Orange Juice

This story got me thinking how orange juice drinkers might feel about the source of the oranges and what the companies that make orange juice do to label there orange juice products. So, I went and did some research at HEB and Whole Foods Market. What do you think I found out?

As I suspected, of people in the store that day that were buying orange juice, some wanted to know where the oranges came from and some didn’t. OK, that issue was settled. Orange juice consumers WERE just like wine consumers.


Label on California Orange Juice

Next, I inspected several containers of orange juice. Do you know what I found out? Each carton of orange juice indicated where the oranges came from, as least to an extent. As these photos show: (a) Containers of Florida orange juice indicated “Florida Orange Juice”, (b) Containers of California orange juice indicated “California Orange Juice” clearly on the front label. Containers of more generic orange juice indicated that it was just made in the USA and some indicated  a mix of sources like “USA and Mexico”. In all cases, the origin of the fruit was clearly and correctly indicated.

Now, I don’t profess to know the labeling regulations for orange juice (how much is needed to be Florida or California orange juice). After all, I can barely remember some of the rules that apply to wine labeling.

It appears to me that orange juice manufacturers do correctly indicate the source of the fruit in their juice. The use of the words “California” and “Florida” on orange juice cartons appears to me to be analogous to using the word “Texas” on the wine label to indicate Texas appellation of wine. Using the words “USA” on orange juice looks to be analogous to wine labels containing the words “American Wine”. Frankly, I don’t know if there is anything in the wine world analogous to “USA and Mexico”.


Label on Orange Juice from “USA & Mexico” – See lower left

Maybe labeling of orange juice and wine do have something in common. But, you know, I didn’t see one carton of orange juice with the meaningless and confusing words, “For Sale in Texas Only“. If I had seen that on a carton of orange juice, just like for Texas wine, I would have wrongly interpreted that the juice carrying that label was a special product of Texas only allowed to be sold to fellow Texans within the confines of the Great State of Texas.

What do you say, let’s try to make the source of wine grapes in Texas wine as easy to determine as the source of oranges in orange juice. That shouldn’t be too hard for all Texas wineries to do. Then, maybe Andy and I can shut up and spend more of our time sipping more wine and less time typing borderline esoteric wine blogs. We are almost there, there are only a few Texas wineries that persist in using “For Sale in Texas Only” rather than America or other correct grape source.

P.S. I hope that you all take these points under serious consideration while also understanding and accommodate my tongue-in-cheek approach used in this blog. I also know that it is seriously hard to start a new wine producing region. I’ve talked to most of the key people in the Texas wine industry that have made an impact here. I appreciate their hard work and dedication; their grit and gumption, and so do many consumers. By and large, nearly all  people in the Texas wine industry want to be honest and deal squarely with consumers. Please keep in mind that in the modern marketplace, trust starts with clear and honest labeling. There is no room for anything else. Thanks to all Texas wineries that, if enough Texas grapes are not available, that you correctly indicate the source of the grapes on the label – from American Wine to Temecula, Sierra Foothills, to Columbia River Valley. I’d rather have a bottle of wine that I can appreciate it’s source than one that has no source. Cheers to your success, now and in the future.


It’s 6 pm. Do you know what grapes are in your glass wine?

 Posted by at 3:58 pm
Nov 212014

Gary Elliott will need to make room for his Houston Rodeo Saddle Award for 2015 Top Texas Wine – Photo Courtesy of James Skogsberg

2015 Houston Rodeo Uncorks The Best in Texas: Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red 2012

Well, it’s official. The 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition just released the results of their top award winners and  champions are:

  • Grand Champion Best of Show – Rombauer Vineyards Diamond Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California 2010
  • Reserve Grand Champion Best of Show – Charles-Le-Bel, Brut, Champagne, France NV
  • Top Texas Wine Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red, Texas 2012
  • Top Sparkling Wine – Ricossa Winery Moscato d’Asti, Italy 2013
  • Top White Wine – McManis Family Vineyards Viognier, River Junction, California 2013
  • Top Red Wine – Antinori Guado Al Tasso, Bolgheri DOC Supierore, Italy 2011
  • Top Region Wine – Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Australia 2010
  • Top Sweet Wine – Yalumba Antique Tawny, Southeastern Australia, NV
  • Top Value Wine – Fancy Pants Red Blend, California 2012

These wineries should feel very happy with their awards as there were 2,578 entries, including wines from 43 Texas wineries and 16 different countries. I don’t think that they count Texas as a separate country from the USA, but they do feature the best wine from Texas. There were 20 panels of judges, consisting of wine experts, collectors and knowledgeable consumers. This is first time since the competition’s early history that I was able to join the panel of judges. It was impressive to taste a wide selection of fine wines from around the world. I personally tasted about 150 wines over the two day weekend period (November 15-16) allocated for my judging panel in the competition.


Houston Rodeo 2015 Wine Competition Best Texas, Regional and Value Wine Judging – Driftwood Longhorn Red was a standout.

On the first day of the competition, my panel handled Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Syrah/Shiraz and Meads. After we finished judging, we were keep waiting nearly two hours to be released only to find out that we needed to go back for a tie breaker round between five Texas wines in medal contention in the Syrah/Shiraz category.This really tells you something about Texas Syrah.

On day two, I participated as a judge in the “taste off” for the top Texas, regional (Pacific Rim), and value wines. In this round, it was obvious that Texas was well represented. We tasted and judged each of the top five scoring Texas wines on its own merits with each judge casting votes without discussing or sharing the results. To me, one wine stood out in this flight of Texas wines. It was dark, nearly opaque. It had a grand display of well extracted dark fruit and a well crafted tannic grip. It got my vote. Later, I found out it was Gary Elliott’s Driftwood Estate Winery Longhorn Red (2012).

By the way, now Gary Elliott’s winery not only has the best vineyard view in Texas, but offers the Best Texas Wine, as well. Congratulations Gary, I’m sure that both you and your wine will represent Texas well.


View of the Vineyard at Driftwood Estate Winery

Driftwood Estate Winery is located 6 miles south of Hwy 290 on Ranch Road 12 between Dripping Springs & Wimberley. It offers Mediterranean and classic style wines. it has a breathtaking hilltop view overlooking the vineyard, giftshop, tastings, picnic area and covered deck. Weddings & private parties welcome! More at:

— — — — —

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charity that benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Show has committed nearly $375 million to the youth of Texas. For more information, visit and connect with RodeoHouston® online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr for all of the latest news. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Heritage Partners are Reliant, Ford, Miller Lite, Coca-Cola, BP America and Mattress Firm. The 2015 show will run March 3 – 22, 2015.

 Posted by at 5:02 pm
Nov 132014

Tempranillo Day Tasting Line-up of Texas Wines

Tonight 7 pm – Join Us for International Tempranillo Day Twitter Tasting

Well, wake up and get out of bed! It’s International Tempranillo Day!

People around the world rejoice. Tempranillo (the national red grape of Spain) is also finding a new second home…Texas. Texas (with its arid hilly wine country, plethora of grilled meats and newly planted acres of olive trees) and Tempranillo (the tannic red wine with Iberian roots) is an excellent pairing.

Tonight for the Tempranillo Day festivities, I will have a group of wine aficionados together for a tasting in Houston that features some of what I feel are the best Texas wines based on homegrown Tempranillo grapes. More details at:

My 2014 Texas Tempranillo wine selections are:

  • Llano Estacado Winery 2012 Texas High Plains Tempranillo – Tempranillo79% harvested from the Reddy Vineyard and the Newsom Vineyard and Mourvèdre from Reddy Vineyard, all grapes from the Texas High Plains; shows moderate tannic structure, red berries, plums, and cedar.
  • Pedernales Cellars 2012 Tempranillo Reserve – Artfully made with dark cherry earth, truffle, tobacco with firm tannins and a smooth finish.
  • Duchman Family Winery 2011 Tempranillo Bayer Family Vineyards (Texas High Plains) – Crafted single-vineyard wine with smooth mouthfeel, aromatic smokey notes, red berry and soft “Pinotesque” finish. This is a sipping wine, too.
  • Lewis Wines 2011 Parr Vineyards Tempranillo (Texas Hill Country) – 100% Tempranillo sourced from Parr Vineyards west of Mason, the Pinot Noir of Tempranillos, medium body, aromatic with red berry, beet root, hint of cigarette smoke, even a floral note with a lingering finish.
  • Spicewood Vineyards 2012 Estate Tempranillo (Texas Hill Country) – 96% Tempranillo balance Cabernet Sauvignon; extracted tart red berry and dark fruit, layered with moist earth, leather and smoke.

Pick up a bottle Texas Tempranillo at your nearest market (Spec’s, Total Wine, Central Market or Whole Foods). If your empty handed still, pick up a Spanish Tempranillo (Rioja Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva) or Tempranillo blend.  Then, taste, tweet (tag with #TXwine and #TempranilloDay) and follow the action. It is a good way to compare notes and contrast wine styles while see what others have to say about Texas Tempranillo and Tempranillo wines worldwide.

Texas, BBQ and Tempranillo is a grand pairing. See what Forbes Magazine has to say about it: Click here.


“Texas Cowboy and Longhorn with Spilled Red Tempranillo Wine on Ground” by Picasso (NOT)

 Posted by at 9:57 am
Nov 062014

Follow me in the Texas hill country on I Love Texas Photo on Instagram Nov. 7-9, 2014

November 7-9: News Flash – Texas Hill Country Wineries on Instagram

This Thursday November 7th through Sunday November 9th, the Texas hill country wineries will be featured on Instagram. I have been selected to take the Instagram “baton” during my upcoming hill country trip and feature my cellphone photos that I will take and post to the world on Instagram. This feature is part of the “I Love Texas Photo” series that selects and features a different photographer every three days and provides a diverse array of scenes and portraits from all around Texas.

Check out the Instagram social media app/site and follow me on the I Love Texas Photo site on Instagram at:

I Love Texas Photo Instagram account currently has: 3,012 posts, 17,128 followers and 5,043 following.


I will be starting Friday morning and capture images in the Texas Hill Country and posting to Instagram. So, please follow the I Love Texas Photo account.

Selected images will also be going to my other social media accounts at:

Twitter: @VintageTexas –


Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group:



But to have the broadest reach for Texas wines, please follow the I Love Texas Photo account on Instagram.

I look forward to the task of spreading the joy of Texas hill country wines and winery/vineyard visits to everyone across the Lone Star State and beyond. Join me for this hill country trail ride and feel free to add your comments, favorite posts and/or retweet or reblog the photos. More information on the Texas Hill Country Wineries and trail maps are available at:


On the Hill Country Road Again


Looking for the fine wines of Texas

 Posted by at 11:29 am
Oct 292014


November 2014 #TXwine Twitter Thursday – Tempranillo Day Event

Writer, blogger and food/wine commentator, Andrew Chalk at has put Texas Tempranillos to the test (click here). For consumers, he recommends “Consider a Texas Tempranillo with your next steak, lamb or barbecue. Also, on day trips, consider visiting some producers and tasting their wines on their premises.” Andy also called Tempranillo “the right choice” for Texas’s leading namesake grape. Perhaps, he sees (and we should all see that Texas isn’t like Bordeaux, it sure as HELL ain’t like Burgundy, but Texas’s wine country is more like Spain the acknowledged home of the Tempranillo grape.

For sommeliers, Andy says, Tempranillo is “the best choice for your [wine] list and its the place to start for restaurants to bring Texas wines into their wine program. Well, November is the month for wine drinkers worldwide to celebrate Tempranillos. Thursday, November 13, 2014, has been officially proclaimed “Tempranillo Day” (click here) by TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates Producers & Amigos. Therefore, Texans take note….

November’s #TXwine Twitter Tuesday will actually be held on Thursday, November 13. This change comes as our normal #TXwine Twitter event will be celebrating International Tempranillo Day along with many other Tempranillo lovers around the world on that Thursday.

Many people have called Tempranillo “the signature red grape of Texas”. Tempranillo certainly appears to be doing well here, but what better way to ascertain its status and reflect on its future in Texas versus the rest of the world than to taste, tweet and chat with others both inside and outside our great state.

No specific Texas Tempranillos will be featured in this Twitter event. So, feel free to find one, two or a few of your favorite Texas Tempranillos (TEXAS on the label) and share your thoughts and tasting experiences with the event’s participants.


Courtesy of

Jeff Cope and Russ Kane will  lead this #TXwine Twitter chat and help moderate the discussion as we enjoy a few of our favorite Tempranillos. Denise Clarke will be hosting friends at her house for a fun time together to enjoy Tempranillos, so you may want to consider doing the same.

Join us for the November #TXwine Twitter tasting on November 13th from 7-8 p.m. CST. Grab your favorite Tempranillo and we look forward to having you with us for a night of tasting and tweeting.

Please remember to include #TXwine and for this event #TempranilloDay in your tweets so everyone participating in the chat can see your tweets!


Denise, Jeff, Jessica, Russ, and Daniel

@DeniseClarkeTX, @TXWineLover, @JDewps, @VintageTexas, @txwinejournal

Additional Details: More after the jump! Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:57 am
Oct 272014

Robert Stucchi-Prinetti of Badia a Coltibuono

Tastes of Badia a Coltibuono: Wines that Entwine The Past and Future of Chianti Classico

I recently tasted a selection of wines of Badia a Coltibuono and met its general manager and winemaker Roberto Stucchi-Prinetti, the great grandson in the family that came to own this winery with a long legacy in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.

While tasting his initial offerings (value Chianti wines), Stucchi laid out a verbal picture of Badia a Coltibuono, which literally means “Abbey of Good Harvest” in an ancient dialect of Latin predating Italian. The abbey dates back to the 11th century being founded by a Tuscan order of Benedictine monks that established vineyards, a winery and a network of surrounding farms in the area near present-day Gaiole in Chianti.

In 1846, the abbey’s winery operation was secularized under the rule of Napoleon and in the late 1800s came into ownership of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, Roberto’s great grandfather. It was largely due to Piero’s dedication and family support that the entire property began to flourish and survived the Second World War virtually intact. In the 1980s, with the aim to advance the winery’s business further Roberto came to California to study fermentation science at U.C. Davis. He later interned at Chappellet Vineyards in Napa Valley.


It would have been easy to get lost in the extensive history of Badia a Coltibuono and Roberto’s family story. However, the first two wines (Coltibuono Chianti Cetumura and Chianti Classico RS), both less than $15, snapped my attention back with refreshing, fruit-dominant, tart red cherry and aromatic floral notes highlighting little if any oak aging. And, for good reason, the Cetumura was recently named by Food & Wine Magazine’s Ray Isle to his list of “Amazing Wines for less than $15” (click here).

If wine drinking Texans are looking for a more personal linkage to Badia a Coltibuono, Roberto’s story gave it to me. He described a method of winegrowing/farming called “Promiscuo” that was in Italy and on his estate in the late-1800s when his great grandfather took control of the property. It used widely-spaced rows of grapes with other crops occupying the middles between the grapevines.

This agricultural approach is precisely the way another Italian family – The Qualias – newly arrived in Texas started their Val Verde Winery in 1883 in Del Rio, Texas (click here). This early approach to winegrowing encouraged different types of crops to co-exist side-by-side in the vineyard. In some cases, there would even be livestock bred on the estate. It was through this diversified Italian approach that Val Verde Winery survived and operated through prohibition and became the oldest continuously operated winery in Texas bringing with it a Mediterranean and Italian winemaking legacy to Texas. So, it is quite appropriate that Texan’s should sip and savor the wines of Badia a Coltibuono – kind of like a Mediterranean palate calibration.

The next three Badia a Coltibuono wines, ranging in price from $20 to $50 specifically featured the Badia a Coltibuono estate vineyard grapes (which are now organically grown), selections of best and ripest grapes, extended maceration and more extensive oak aging regimens:

Chianti Classico Estate – 90% Sangiovese – 10% Canaiolo Nero blend with 12 months of oak aging bringing intense red fruit and floral notes and highlights.

Chianti Classico Riserva – 90% Sangiovese – 10% Canaiolo Nero blend with still riper grapes with 24 months of oak aging to produce a deeper richer red berry flavors and aromas with highlights of wet earth and floral on the finish.

Sangioveto Di Toscano – 100% estate Sangiovese with 24 months of oak aging followed by 6 months of bottle aging before release offering darker color, black cherry, cola and wet-earthy notes with well-structured, pleasant tannins and spice on the finish.


Vineyard at Badia a Coltibuono

Roberto talked further about his opportunity coming to the study in the United States. He said, “I learned some very useful information particularly as we were trying to develop the winery into an ongoing business. But, I was also in California during the start-up of the organic movement, which helped me immensely. There, I learned that the soil was alive, it was a living entity. From that, I’ve been able to make our vineyards organically grown for over 20 years now. It definitely make things easier, particularly for disease resistance, and helps our yields particularly in bad years.”

Roberto also said, “I had the opportunity to replant the vineyard starting in 1988. I was able to screen the vineyard and select individual vines that we felt were doing the best on this historical site over a long period of time. We selected 600 vines and from those we decided to use certain ones for propagation that would be used to bring the best characteristics to the new replanted vineyard.” Roberto refers to these wines as his “heirloom” vines that reach back into the legacy of Badia a Coltibuono’ s past that he now uses to produce the wineries current and future wines.


11th Century Monastery at Badia a Coltibuono

The last wines tasted were two Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santos. These are sweet wines made from early-harvested grapes with high acidity that are picked and then, in the “passito style”, let to air dry thus enhancing their sugar content to around 30 percent. Roberto refrained from calling them dessert wine. Rather, these are wines that are “guest wines”. They are oxidized and highly stable so you can keep a bottle open to serve when guests arrive as is the local custom in Tuscany.

The first of these wines was their Vin Santo del Chianti Classico made in the traditional manner from white Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes and allowed to age in small sealed oak barrels for four years under ambient conditions. The wine had an amber color and yielded honeyed characteristics appointed with roasted hazelnut qualities. The second Vin Santo was a special wine (called “Occhio di Pernice” – or “Partridge Eye” owing to its color) made from Sangiovese grapes and oak aged for five years. This wine presented a garnet red color with a rim of amber (like the Partridge’s eye) with nuances of honey, candied citrus fruit and savory, nutty and earthy notes.


In closing, Roberto spoke of his fortune to have interned at Chappellet Vineyards in Napa Valley before going back to Italy to work on modernizing his family’s vineyard and winery. This internship was a special opportunity since the Chappellet family’s development of their Pritchard Hill Vineyard was all about learning and identifying a vineyard site’s particular elements that defined its terroir (or sense of place). These are the set of special characteristics of geography, geology and climate of a certain place and how they interacting with plant genetics that are expressed in the wine. The skills learned at Chappellet and later applied at Badia a Coltibuono were precisely what have brought him his current successes and have also produced enjoyment for the many that drink his wines now and that will for decades to come.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
 Posted by at 5:25 pm